The estimable Gallup, Inc., purveyor of fine survey instruments, decided to take advantage of the early August lull in political polling to drop two bombshells: first only 38 percent of Americans have ever tried marijuana and, second, wine has tied beer as America's favorite liquid intoxicant. Oh, America.
The important caveat, up front: Drinking and drug use are both bad, categorically. Neither is "cool" in the "you got a good degree and a good job and are living a wholesome life" sense, only in the "this is what stereotypically cool people do" sense. Don't drink or do drugs, ever, no matter what.
Let's start with the pot news. (For the 62 percent of Americans who may not know, "pot" is a slang term for "marijuana." We may also use the expression "weed," which means the same thing. We will not use the term "reefer.") The graph below takes the data from Gallup and breaks it down by demographic. As you can see, this includes the 38 percent figure. It also includes how many people said they regularly smoke (the light blue bar) — seven percent of Americans.
As Gallup notes, though, that's not much different than its surveys going back to 1985. The difference is only five percentage points.
The reason? Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign. Not really, but kind of. People who are between the ages of 18 to 29 are less likely than at any point since 1973 to say that they have tried pot. That would be people born between the years of 1984 and 1995. The people who smoked weed in their twenties during the 1970s are now older, so the number of people in the older age groups that admit having "ever happened to try" marijuana have also increased over time. Call it the Baby Boom of Bud.
What's interesting is that this isn't just a case of people who are older being the ones to continue to smoke weed. As the first graph shows, young people are still the most likely to smoke it; 14 percent of people under 30 do so actively, compared with only five percent of those between 50 and 64. Less pot being smoked by the group that's smoking the most seems to suggest that less pot is being smoked overall.
At the same time that kids ("kids" meaning anyone under 30, apparently) aren't smoking as much pot, they are also totally in love with drinking wine — the same alcoholic beverage that is literally given out at church on Sundays. Here's Gallup's data on how trends among alcohol drinkers have changed over the past 20 years. Negative numbers mean a decline in the alcohol's consumption; positive ones, an increase.
The popularity of beer has dropped thirty percentage points for people under 30 over the past two decades. Among nonwhites, the drop has been more significant.
The data on alcohol consumption is only for those who indicated that they actually drink. Guess what percentage of Americans that is. Go ahead. Guess.
Sixty percent. Forty percent of Americans don't drink at all — which is actually below the average of 63 percent since 1939. Among people under the age of thirty, that figure is only 41 percent — meaning that there is at least 23 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 30 who don't drink and have never tried marijuana.
And, you know, good for them. Luckily, there are no other drugs in the world which might be filling part of that gap.
Photo: A man stands near an unidentified leafy substance. (AP)
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